On February 24, 2017, roughly 300 protestors gathered outside the office of Congresswoman Mimi Walters in the afternoon. The protest had been organized on Facebook by the Coast Federation of Educators, AFT Local 1911, a teacher’s union, among other groups.

But the members of the teacher’s union were not the only attendees to crowd the plaza in front of the Congresswoman’s office. Many of her constituents came out to demand that she engage them and listen to their concerns. More information about the concerns of the protestors can be found on their online petition.

The protest seemed to be building on the momentum that had started two days earlier at a town hall meeting at University Hills community center.  As reported by the OC Register, as many as 120 constituents of the 45th congressional district, Rep. Walters’ district, filled the center and demanded that their representative take a stand against the new presidential administration.

In response to the event, Walters’ spokesperson, Abigail Sigler, told the OC Register that “Congresswoman Walters is in Orange County this week meeting with the people she represents. She firmly believes that meeting and listening to her constituents is the best (way to) represent them and advocate for them in Washington … [but] [s]he will not allow a small, vocal group of paid activists distract her from this fundamental responsibility. As she always has, she welcomes anyone with comments or concerns to contact her office.”

The “paid activists” claim by the Walters’ office has upset many of her constituents who are genuinely interested in communicating with her. Orange County Young Democrats interviewed a handful of the activists, to find out whether they were, in fact, paid, and to determine their hourly rates, whether their voices were representative of Walters’ district, and their reasons for protesting.

Hourly protestor rate: $0.00

Occupation: Retired

Constituent of the 45th Congressional District? Yes

Why are you protesting? “Mimi Walters took the same oath I did [when I joined the Navy] to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic… as did my grandfather in WWII, my uncle in WWI, and my brother in Afghanistan. Our Constitution is under attack and now is the time to defend it…”

 What did you sacrifice to be here today? “I’m a cyclist. When I heard about the demonstration, I stopped mid-bike ride and took a Lyft to get here in time.”

Name: Emily P. and Anna P.

Hourly protestor rate: $0.00

Occupations: Anna is a graduate student. Emily is a professor.

Constituents of the 45th Congressional District? Yes

Why are you protesting? Emily: “I wish that [Mimi Walters] was concerned enough to make a public statement about all that has come out of the new administration. I’d take anything really, like ties to Russia; cuts to the Affordable Care Act; damage to environmental protections and education. I’ve been calling her since November. I call most days. She’s never said anything publicly about these issues. She doesn’t stand up to the President. I wish that she would.”

Anna: “I have also been calling since November. Immediately upon the appointments of Steve Bannon and other cabinet members, I asked [Rep. Walters] to give a statement against these people. I was told [by her office] that she has no impact or vote on these appointments so there’s no reason for her to take a public position. As it turns out, she has no problem making public statements congratulating other appointees under the same circumstances. I feel like I’m being lied to by her office and I’m tired of it.”

What did you sacrifice to be here today? Emily: “I gave up researching and prepping my lecture for next Monday.” Anna: “I gave up working on my dissertation. I will have to make up for it over the weekend.”

Name: Tsenai H. and Ezra E.

Hourly protestor rate: $0.00

Occupation: Ezra is a software engineer.

Constituents of the 45th Congressional District? Yes

Why are you protesting? Ezra: “…I’m a refugee. I’m raising two kids in Irvine and I want them to live in a country that is tolerant and accepting of immigrants. This last election and the recent travel ban woke me up.

Mimi is part of the fascist movement taking the United States… she’s a rubberstamp for the Trump administration. In our district, we can’t have that. It’s a highly educated and progressive district. She does not represent us.”

What did you sacrifice to be here today? Time at work.

Name: Kristen G.

Hourly protestor rate: $0.00

Occupation: Self-employed, runs consulting firm

Constituent of the 45th Congressional District? Yes

Why are you protesting? “I’m worried about the direction this country is taking. People with undemocratic ideas are calling the shots… and I want Mimi to make a statement on the administration’s lack of transparency and ties to Russia.

I’ve been contacting Mimi for years [throughout her various elected positions]. I’ve written to her numerous times about common sense gun regulation and received a boiler plate letter in response…. Now, I want to know her position on Trump’s travel ban. I call her office twice a week. I’m always polite and say that I’m calling as a concerned voter, but, I know that my concerns aren’t being seen by my representative. I haven’t gotten a personal letter or email…. I even signed up on her website to connect with her and still haven’t had much access to her.”

What did you sacrifice to be here today? Time with family or time spent working.

Name: Marisa C.

Hourly protestor rate: $0.00

Occupation: Special Education Teacher

Constituent of the 45th Congressional District? Yes

Why are you protesting? “Like many people here, I’ve been forced to get involved and call for change peacefully and respectfully…. Mimi’s denial of our request for a town hall and her disappearance from the public eye is not a move I would expect from a leader. I understand compromise is involved in politics, but I think courage is a value too… Mimi needs to be willing to meet us in the middle and listen.”

What did you sacrifice to be here today? “Time at work! I’ll have to work tomorrow to catch up.”

Name: Onice S.

Hourly protestor rate: $0.00

Occupation: N/A

Constituent of the 45th Congressional District? Yes

Why are you protesting? “I’m here because of this cutie pie that’s on my hip. I want to be able to look her in the face when she’s older and say, “hey some man that became president said he could grab anyone’s p***y, but your mom stood up against it….

I just moved to district forty-five and I’m trying to understand where [Rep. Walters] stands on issues and haven’t been able to get information. Her staff is unwilling to say anything about her whereabouts or where she stands on certain issues. She doesn’t seem willing to speak on her own behalf either. As a constituent, I want to know who she is and what she is about. How can I do that if she refuses to take a position or engage in conversation with me?”

What did you sacrifice to be here today? “I have a three-hour commute to work every day so it means a lot to take time out of my day, and away from my kids, to be here.”

Friends, starting second to left: Rania, Shaám, Eman, Sumaya, and Esma.

Name: Shaám C.

Hourly protestor rate: $0.00

Occupation: Student

Constituent of the 45th Congressional District? Yes

Why are you protesting? “This is about our future. If we don’t stand up for our rights then no one will and we’ll just fall under [a government] we don’t agree with…. I can’t vote yet, but I know that voting is important. Until then, I can protest.”

What did you sacrifice to be here today? “I was supposed to hang out with my friends, but my friend told me about this and we changed our plans altogether to come here.

Negah Mouzoon Daily is a board member for Orange County Young Democrats (OCYD).

About OCYD: Orange County residents between the ages of 14-35 who are committed to Democratic values.   OCYD meets every second Wednesday of each month. Visit them at Facebook.com/TheRealOCYD or follow them on Twitter @OCYD

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue or others please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at TSears@voiceofoc.org

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